The Tiny Island Where Men Have Their Own Language

In 1837, the British cutter Lambton sailed to the tiny atoll of Sapwuahfik in Micronesia to take control of the valuable supply of tortoise shells. Upon orders from Captain Charles Hart, the crew massacred all the men on the island. They left behind some Pohnpeian crew members, who claimed the widowed women on the island as their wives. Over the next few decades, other groups arrived. Today, the men of the island speak a language called Ngatikese. The women and children on the island can understand the language, but it’s only spoken by the men. Ngatikese was developed from the Pohnpeian language and is different from other creoles of the region. The language, say the people of Sapwuahfik, is a strange practice that preserves a piece of tragic history from another time.